Last fall, New Times published an exposé of the business practices of United Automobile Insurance Co. ("The Bad-Hands People," Wyatt Olson, September 15, 2005). Richard Parrillo, the Chicago native who owns most of the North Miami firm, has developed a unique and lucrative business plan: declare all insurance claims fraudulent to avoid paying claims. Critics describe the company's motto as "Deny, delay, don't pay." Some customers find themselves hounded by bill collectors or facing bankruptcy; many spend years in court trying to get their benefits.
In 2002, the company pulled in about $200 million in premiums, mostly by insuring low-income and hard-to-insure South Floridians in other words, the most desperate of drivers.
Business must be good: Parrillo owns a 5,000-square-foot brick mansion in Chicago complete with four fireplaces and four full baths valued at $1.1 million, as well as an $800,000 condo in Aventura.
And now, it's clear why United Auto felt it had to stiff so many of its policyholders in their time of need. Parrillo, it turns out, was saving it up to build a real "love nest" for his wife, according to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Stella Foster.
"Folks have been wondering who is building that 27,000-square-foot mansion stretching over seven huge lots on North Burling in the Lincoln Park area," Foster wrote recently. "Well, here's the scoop: Insurance billionaire Richard "Dickie" Parrillo is spending over $40 million on this dream home for his wife, Michaela."
Believed to be the largest residential home ever built in the Windy City, Parrillo is overlooking no detail. He's imported "master carvers" from France and the Czech Republic to work their magic on the five-bedroom, 13-bath manor. There's even a built-in puppy wash.
Well, the 'Pipe sure hopes that as Parrillo settles in, he'll remember all the little people who sacrificed so greatly to help build his dream. They'll certainly never forget him. As told to Tony Ortega